Category Archives: Students

Montreal, Day 9

Garden

by Melissa Ford ’21

Today we started our first day of service at the school Louis Joseph Papineau. We arrived at the Jardin des Patriotes (Patriots Garden) and split into two groups that would alternate tasks every so often. A few of the students from Be the Change came and helped throughout the day as well. One group moved compost into the garden while the other group painted. We worked with Camilla who runs the garden and she was super sweet. If I was having difficulty speaking French, she helped me rephrase and get to what I wanted to say,

We ended twenty minutes earlier than we were supposed to because Camilla said we worked faster than she had expected. Even though it was a hot and sunny day, we were able to do our best. We took breaks often and made sure to stay hydrated.

We went to a circus next and got a tour of the building. We learned the history behind the building called la Tohu which was where we were. There were artists practicing on the stage and we got to watch some acrobats and dancers. By the time we left the main room, we were all in awe of what the artists could do. For each show the artists have to learn a new choreography, they were amazingly talented.

By the end of the tour, we were all tired and needed a rest. We went back to the house had dinner and either took a nap or rested. At 7:30 pm we were out again with Donna, the woman who runs Be the Change at the school. We venture to the sights of the “Oratoire” and the top of the Mont Royal which have the best view of the city. As the sun descended, we were met with a golden view of a gorgeous city. Then as it got dark and lights began to appear we marveled over the twinkling of the plethora of lights in the city. There were many tourists viewing the city lights, but there were even more lights showing us how active and lively the city truly is. From above we could recognize murals that we had seen earlier in this trip and so. we were able to see all the places we had been. It was honestly the most beautiful sight to end our fourth to the last day in Montreal.

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Costa Rica, June 17, 2019

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by Abby Eisold ’20

Today was full of many wonderful excursions. After waking up and eating a lovely breakfast together, we took a boat back up the canal to where our bus, and dear friend Ronald, was waiting for us. About 90 minutes later, we arrived at lunch to eat another balanced meal. On our way to our next lodge, we made three spectacular stops. One was to a banana plantation where we learned how bananas are grown, harvested, and selected. Seeing the system in place and learning of the history of Costa Rica as a “Banana Republic,” we were all able to take away a useful piece of information from this short stop. I was particularly interested in what Mario said as he explained how bananas and pineapples are two of the most important exports for Costa Rica. This stop was very important because it showed us how much Costa Rica relies on these crops.

Our other two trips of the day included destinations for food. The first was a common grocery store. Here we felt more comfortable, as it was something familiar to us, because it resembled the Walmart we stopped at previously and the grocery stores we have at home. Next though, we made a quick stop at a local fruit market, and the experience was very different than the previous grocery store, but in only positive ways. This stop has honestly been my single favorite event thus far, and it was mostly spontaneous. One of us on the trip wanted to get a fresh mango, so our guide, Mario, called ahead to a fruit stand he was familiar with and arranged for a tasting of exotic fruits! At this fruit stand we were immediately welcomed to fresher and cheaper fruits, and it was an overall better experience. Upon arrival there were many fresh fruits and coconut products for us to try. I tried more than ten new foods and was not disappointed with a single one of them. Offering cheaper prices, and better products, we were more than willing to buy the produce we tried and loved. This was one experience that showed me how the ‘Pura Vida’ way of life is found everywhere in Costa Rica. This fruit stand was generous to us in ways I have rarely experienced, and the kindness we were shown was positive for everyone who was there. We all left happy and our stomachs full, as we discussed our favorites of the fruits we tried. This brought me even closer to my friends because we tried this new and exciting experience together.

After returning, having a rest, then getting an orientation to our service projects in the community, we went on an adventurous night walk. Here we saw the Red Eyed Tree Frog and other interesting insects such as a cicada. This night hike was unlike any other we have done because we were not focused on the breathtaking views, but payed close attention to what was right in front of us. Previously our nature adventures involved looking at birds and animals, but tonight we focused mainly on insects, a very important part of the ecosystem. These insects, although sometimes pesky, are extremely beneficial. This time spent was eye-opening and created a greater understanding of these animals that we so often complain about. Today I learned new lessons and was continuously blown away by the beauty and history of Costa Rica. Being immersed in this culture, our group acquired a greater understanding of Costa Rica’s economy and culture.

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Day 8, Montreal

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By Rachel and Johanna 

Today was the first day of service with the students in the “be the change” group here in Montreal. We started the day off by meeting the deputy Frantz Benjamin and the city council member Josue Corvil. They told us what their job entailed, as well as a little description of the current political situation in Montreal and Quebec. It was a very nice conversation that we had, learning a lot about the special situation of Quebec compared to other Canadian cities and their promise to do their best to help when the public need them, about which we had time to ask questions. We ended out conversation with a nice lunch that had been prepared for us, and then received a flag of Quebec before leaving.

After lunch, Melissa, Jada, and I rode in Donna DeLuca’s car, who is a leader of Be the Change, and who is also a teacher at Louis-Joseph Papineau, which is the school where the students we met went to. She gave us a tour of the city as we rode in the car with her, and she explained that the location where the school is, is a very impoverished area of Montreal. Then we arrived at the school where we were greeted by many students such as Grace who is a student there, around our age who spoke very quick French. We talked about our favorite animals, and how many credits she has in high school. (She has 74 credits, while the normal maximum is 72 which was very impressive.) Yasmine and Bayard were our tour guides and showed us around the school which included places such as the library, auditorium, and a classroom. We also learned about 5 values that are important for the organization, Be The Change. These values include “Amour, Famille, Respect, Paix, et Joie” which is “Love, Family, Respect, Peace, and Joy.” They hold these values very close. Afterwards, we got a tour of the garden that we are going to be working tomorrow and Wednesday. Then we went back to our Air BnB, briefly, to go pick up Kim Hebron, who is our co-chaperone/leader for the week. We were all very excited to see her! Soon after we got Kim, we took the subway to Downtown Montreal. We met the students there and we got a tour of the city which included walking through Chinatown and ended up staying at the Vieux-Port which reminded me of a boardwalk with many shops and a light-up Ferris wheel. When the students from Louis-Joseph Papineau left, we went to go get dinner at the food trucks. We all ended up getting Fish and Chips, and I had the best lemonade of my life! The rest of the night consisted of strolling around the Port, shopping, eating ice cream, and watching seagulls as we sat by the water. We then made our way back to the Air Bnb, ready for the service that awaits us for the next 4 days.

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Costa Rica June 16, 2019

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By Lexie Osbourne ’20

Today was filled with adventure and a learning experience. We started the day with a great breakfast at Pachira Lodge then headed off on a boat to the Tortuguero National Park to explore the canals. This was a two-hour long boat ride through the canals learning about the species that live along the river. In total this national park is 50,000 acres of protected land established to ensure the safety of the wildlife which live there. The area is most known for green sea turtles, however, there are many other amazing animals in the area. We were able the see neotropical river otters, green iguanas, caimans, howler monkeys, a rat snake, a basilisk (“Jesus Christ” – because it walks on water) lizard, bare tiger herons, green herons, an anhinga bird, and northern jacanas, as well as, many different types of trees. One thing that stuck with me is how important the protection of the area is given there is a high density of various animals but a low concentration of them all. I truly appreciate how the community was able to come together to work on the goal of protecting their environment through eco-tourism. This community effort is so important and should be more widespread.

After lunch, we worked on the beach of the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and cleaned up the trash that could be injested by the animals. We were able to remove a lot of materials that could be recycled – we know because we sorted it all! Because it was Sunday, the recycling Center was closed, but we still wanted to make sure we were recycling, so we sorted the trash and left the recyclables outside of the recycling center in labeled bag. Even though this was a relatively small effort in the big picture, it still means a lot since we were able to help remove part of the problem. I did find it interesting that for an area that talks about protection of wildlife there was quite a bit trash. Whether that be from tourists or locals that don’t see the importance of not littering hopefully soon there can be more awareness to how harmful the trash can be. The Sea Turtle Conservancy is doing a great job of that and hopefully their amazing work gets further spread throughout the community.

During the beach clean I made a new best friend – a dog I named Marble. I met him on the beach and after the clean he followed me to stores and even to the boat that we were leaving from. He was so adorable, and I hope that someone takes care of him. It was so sad having to leave him since he was such a great addition to the trip. Later, we were able to walk through town to buy souvenirs and help the local community. The community is so beautiful and vibrate with colors and nice people. The visit to the canals and the beach clean-up has further showed me how important and beneficial taking care of the environment is. It will be very hard to go back to busy New York City since everything in Costa Rica has been amazing. I can’t wait to visit again and learn more.

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Montreal, Sunday, June 16

by Jada

Hi everyone, this is Jada. I am going to tell you what happened today, June 16th, on the Montréal service trip.

Fortunately, we had a late start. Some, including myself, saw this as an opportunity to get more rest. Meanwhile others used the extra time to bond by playing cards. All of us made sure to enjoy our last minutes in our Québec City Airbnb. Since, we not only adored the house, but also loved the city.

Our last moments in the city were spent at Le Billig, a crêperie. At brunch almost all of us struggled to order because we wanted to maximize our amount of crêpes, while staying within the budget. For some this meant sharing crêpes, while others simply ordered two crêpes. All of us enjoyed Le Billig both for the amazing food and their equally amazing staff. The employees even recommended a street fair to us, which we stopped at momentarily. However, we had to hurry because we made plans to see the waterfalls before our departure from Québec City.

We took the scenic route to the falls, which provided us with a nice preview of the falls. However, the preview did not compare to the waterfalls in person. They were absolutely stunning. I was not only amazed by the beauty of the falls and the surrounding nature, but also by the different people who visited them. We saw people of various backgrounds coming together to enjoy nature, which was nice to see in an era so focused on technology. For this reason and many more, it was hard to leave the falls, but we had to head back to Montréal.

The car ride back was full of discussions, music, naps, and food. For me, discussions revolved around French movies, tv shows, music and expressions. Needless to say, we listened to a lot of French music in the car. I was so focused on the conversation, the music, and navigating that I did not have time to take a nap. However, I was refreshed by the potatoes and tea that I got at Tim Hortons. Overall, the ride was long, but I enjoyed every minute of it. The fun didn’t stop when the car ride ended. We continued to amuse ourselves with food and games at our Airbnb in Montréal.

We ordered from Poutineville. Some of us took a chance and tried poutine, while others stuck with American cuisine. However, all of us enjoyed our meals and the time we spent gathered in the living room. We continued to bond by playing a singing game. The game required us to break into teams, the couch team and the table team, which in turn brought out our more competitive sides. However, the team also required cooperation within the teams. We ended the night with the table team, Renee’s team, winning. This was the perfect way to say goodbye to Renee who was a great supervisor and our song connoisseur. We will miss Renee very much, but we are excited to welcome Kim. We are also excited to see what the following days have in store.

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Costa Rica: June 15, 2019

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by Eden Jones ’20 

Hi everyone! My name is Eden Jones from the class of 2020, and I’ll be filling you in on today’s activities during our sixth day of the 2019 Service-Learning trip in Costa Rica. Today was a typical traveling day for everyone, with an early morning drive (early meaning 6:00 AM!!) from the town of Arenal to the port of the “Lucky River.” From there, we all boarded the boat, sailed through the river,  into the canal and headed towards the beautiful town of Tortuguero, located on the Caribbean/Atlantic side of Costa Rica.

Tortuguero is one of Costa Rica’s more secluded locations because it is only accessible by boat or plane. Also, tourists are not the only visitors to this amazing place. Sea turtles (five different species to be exact) arrive on the Caribbean shore of Tortuguero from the months of July to October. The females come to lay their eggs and begin the newest generation of sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy, along with the people of Tortuguero and aspiring marine biologists, assist in the protection of the young sea turtles by prohibiting poaching or abuse to the animals during their nesting period. During our visit to the Conservatory, we learned important facts about the protection of Sea Turtles, along with now the people of Tortuguero help to make a larger impact. Through todays experiences, myself and everyone on the service trip included dove deeper into understanding Costa Rica’s emphasis on Eco-Tourism and the importance of protecting the environment. Along with learning this, I personally felt a strong sense of community and safety while exploring the town of Toruguero. The store front owners and those watching soccer on the television greeted everyone with a “Pura Vida!” or a kind “Buenos Tardes.” Everyone on the service trip clearly had a smile on their face after our day trip to the town.

After, we sailed back to our hotel, the Pachira Lodge, and enjoyed our second meal together in Toutuguero. Overall, our service-learning trip to Costa Rica has opened a new door to the wonders of renewable energy, the happiness that Eco-Tourism can bring to people, and for me, a view of the world that I’ve never seen before.

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History’s Witness—Scavenger Hunt in Quebec City

David Xi

by David Xi

Today we embarked on an exploration journey that took us around the Old Quebec City, originally built as a fort to defend the settlers from the invasion of other colonists (mainly those south to Quebec in modern-day United States). Our scavenger hunt started at the exterior of the city, where we saw the stone walls that have protected the city for hundreds of years. Ancient yet formidable, these walls were the guardians of Quebec City’s history and culture. Right next to the Old City was the Quebec National Assembly—a solemn and authoritative hallmark of western democracy. Surrounding the Assembly building were past generals and politicians whose statues were enshrined into its walls, their glorious heroism forever captured in history as a testimony of Québécois patriotism. The crosses on those statues revealed the pervasive influence of Christianity, as well as the pious and faithful spirituality of the locals. At the front of the Assembly gate sat a statue dedicated to the indigenous people. Holding bows and arrows, their presence reminded us of the tremendous suffering of the indigenous people in face of European occupation. While historical figures are often viewed as heroes by some people, they are also the source of great injustice in the eyes of the others. Touring around the National Assembly and submerging ourselves under the awesomeness of those statues, we learned that the essence of history is not glorification, but truth-telling. The perspectives of the minorities can provide us with a deeper cultural and political understanding of who we are as a society.

Going into the Old Quebec, we saw rows of cannons lying beside the dampened sidewalk, bringing us back to three hundred years ago, when countless battles were fought at the very spot where we were standing today. Raptly following the soldiers whose footsteps paved the way for future generations, we arrived at the Notre-Dame de Québec. Bells ringing, people praying, the church’s dominance was made obvious by its towering spire, creating an atmosphere of aloofness that was both sacred and intimidating. Right next to it was the statue of François de Laval, the first Bishop of Quebec. His was the proof that faith does not fade away as time passes; generations to generations, the continuation and elevation of Christianity is ensured as in those churches, monuments, and the hearts of countless faithful Christians are God’s words preserved.

Keep walking forward, a huge monument entered our sight. It was built to commemorate the inclusion of Old Quebec in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. A few blocks away, we found the hotel Le Château Frontenac, where in 1943 Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom gathered to discuss strategies vital to their victory in WWII. Who could have known that on a hot September evening seventy-six years ago in this very hotel, humanity’s future was permanently and inevitably changed. Reading this story on a bronze plate outside, we were pulled into that era of flames and chaos, imagining ourselves at the negotiation table and witnessing first-hand the most epic comeback in human history, one that put an end to the evil fascist regimes and salvaged our freedom. How evident it is that our actions today, however insignificant they may seem to us at this moment, might alter the course of the lives of millions of people.

As noon approached, we revisited the exterior walls of the Old City and went to an ancient military base nearby. It was used as the main defense center when first constructed and is now a major tourist site. Even though the fort is no longer in use, we still saw two soldiers guarding its entrance, defending the honor of this symbol of Québécois tenacity and valor. Finally, we journeyed southward to locate the Garden of Joan of Arc. At the center of the plaza sat the grand statue of Joan of Arc, the girl who liberated France in the Hundred Years War. Sword in one hand, the statue posed for an outcry of justice as the words of liberty echoed with its elegance. This statue was not just a monument to a monumental woman; it was the perfect combination of poise and passion, of beauty and bravery, of sublime and strength. What’s more gratifying than to learn that centuries after her execution, Joan of Arc’s heroism is still celebrated whilst the despicable deeds of her persecutors are burned into traceless ashes of history?

At the end of the scavenger hunt, we broke off into groups to enjoy lunch and to spend the afternoon revisiting sites that intrigued us. While the exploration was over, we left having a much deeper understanding and appreciation of Quebec City and its history, culture, and religion. It is through experiences like this—where all individuals can be submerged in this living monument of human evolution, intertwined with ancient complexity and modern easiness—can we truly comprehend the meaning of history—that we are not merely its witness, but also its creator.

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Day 6, Montreal

Day 6

by Justin

We travel to Quebec City after four days of busy service in Montreal. The trip from Montreal to Quebec City takes around two and a half hours. Most of the group members are able to take a nap during the trip so that they can conserve some energy for afternoon activities. One significant difference after arriving at Quebec City that I have observed is how the language of the sign changes. In Montreal, there is a number of signs that are written in English. However, there is hardly anything that is written in English in Quebec City. There is even no English menu in the restaurant that I have lunch today. During lunch time, the group is able to do some shopping and have lunch at a large shopping mall in the downtown area. After moving into the new house that we live in, we take a brief rest and head directly to the old city area. Unlike the modern, tall buildings in Montreal, buildings in Quebec City are more similar to the ones in Europe and have a more classical structure than the ones in Montreal. One of the most grandiose architectures that I have seen today is Château Frontenac in the downtown area. There are also many statues situated around the castle, possibly to commemorate its creator. There are many signs of cultural influence in the old city: the ubiquitous French signs, the French architectural designs, etc. In today’s brief exploration of the old city, we find some restaurants, a few souvenir shops and an art store. I feel very tired as the days comes to an end. Still, I am exhilarated for tomorrow’s visit to the museums and to learn more about the history about the city.

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Costa Rica June 14, 2019

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by Urgen Sherpa ’20

What’s up yaw? Its Urgen Sherpa ’20 and I am your blogger for today. After spending the second night at Hotel Montana Monteverde, we sadly made our departure to our next stop, Arenal. However, prior to our departure, we were able to make full use out of what the hotel had offered us: Breakfast. To those who are not familiar with me, I typically eat a heavy breakfast to start my day right. Luckily, Hotel Montana was able to offer just that, a heavy breakfast. We then continued to our next stop, with a slight adjustment, that being the switch with bus drivers. Our beloved Ronald made an even earlier departure then our group in order to ensure the safe arrival of our luggage in Arenal. Thus, Antonio, our replacement driver, drove us to our next destination – Arenal. The journey was long, but scenic in every imaginable way. We drove up, down, left and right, passing by schools, churches, fields, mountains, and even “fresh” cows. Antonio’s determination was touched by everyone heart during the ride to Arenal. And we finally made it to Lake Arenal!

Upon our arrival to Lake Arenal, our group gave our regards to Antonio, and opened arms for a new mate, Carlos. Carlos, much like Antonio, contained the gushing determination that was touched by everyone during our boat ride through Lake Arenal. During the boat ride, our tour guide, Mario, began introducing key facts about Lake Arenal. I for one, took notes on his informational lecture and would like to share some of this notes that I took during our smooth boat ride. Did you know that Lake Arenal was a man-made lake, built in 1970 stretching over 34 square miles? And did you know that Lake Arenal produces 30% of the electricity used in Costa Rica daily? Lake Arenal is also known for its contribution towards Costa Rica’s hydroelectricity as it contributes around 70%. Lake Arenal is also home to wildlife such as, fish, otters, and caymans. Though the boat ride was smooth, I noticed that water levels in the lake were low. Mario stated that the decrease in water levels in recent years was due to insignificant amount of rainfall which is caused by the pressing issue of global warming. Mixed emotions were felt upon our arrival to the other side of Lake Arenal. However, the cooped-up emotion was disregarded when we met up with Ronald! With the help of Ronald’s astonishing driving skills our group then proceeded to our next destination, Hotel Arenal Paraiso, the hotel we are staying at right now. We ate lunch and then made way for our final stop during our day – a hike to the base of a volcano.

As we drove through the security gate, we made our way through the national reserve. We could smell the change in air as we drew closer to the volcano. Because the volcano is 1700 meters, it took time for our group to hike up to the lookout point. As we journeyed along the volcano, I took in some informational facts about the volcano. Did you know that it last erupted on July 29, 1968? The eruption formed about 5000 small craters along the volcano. And being that the eruption was somewhat recent, vegetation around the volcano is relatively new. Mario explained to us about the concept of Ecological War. And luckily, we were able to glance Ecological War at first hand. What does it mean? It means that species of plants compete with each other for space in the forests and we could see the tall grasses beginning to take over! After about 45 minutes into the hike, we made it to the summit where we were able to view the volcano (sadly, the top was in clouds all day) and Lake Arenal. As the hike came to an end we came back to our hotel. Which is where I began to start this blog. Pura Vida!

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Montreal Day 5

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by Lorelei 

Today we had a free morning! Everyone got to sleep in a bit and then some of us went out to the café around the corner for a delicious breakfast and some wonderful smoothies. Around 10 am we headed out to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see the Thierry Mugler couture exhibit, which was so cool! Every room was tailored to the pieces that were in it, which really added to the experience. The very first room was focused on the costumes Mugler had designed for a production of Macbeth in Paris. It was very dark, and in the back of the room was a hologram scene of Lady Macbeth going mad, with sound effects of crows screeching, and ominous music. The room after that was focused on the costumes Mugler had designed for celebrities, such as Lady Gaga, Madonna and Beyoncé. My favorite room was a large hall where the walls were screens showing underwater scenes that morphed into rainforest halfway down. There were sound effects to accompany the scenes, and it felt like you had just walked into a different universe. The costumes in the room were inspired by marine life and animals in the rainforest and were absolutely incredible. I could have spent hours in the exhibit, but we had to head over to Santropol Roulant, an organization that provides a meals on wheels service to the community. We were given a tour of the building and got to see the roof gardens and some cool murals. After the tour we went to their farmers market and got some fresh organic produce for dinner. The rest of the evening was spent cooking dinner, eating and relaxing.

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